I used mostly my ears

a blog about music by Marc Haegeman


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Leipzig Gewandhaus dazzles but fail to move in Brussels

Thomas Larcher: Chiasma
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Symphony No. 40 in G Minor, KV 550
Piotr Ilyitch Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 6 in B Minor, Op. 74 “Pathétique”

Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, Andris Nelsons
Brussels, Centre for Fine Arts, 29 April 2018

Mozart’s Symphony No. 40 in G Minor and Tchaikovsky’s “Pathétique” form quite a formidable pairing in concert. Emotional music that packages beauty with nostalgia and sadness, yet expressed in such an individual manner that performing the symphonies back to back proves extra challenging. In Brussels, on his maiden tour as Kapellmeister of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, Andris Nelsons faced that challenge with brilliant and often spectacular readings, which were dazzling rather than moving.

Read the full review on Bachtrack


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Venezuelan Wall of Sound

Ludwig van Beethoven: Symphony #5 in C minor, Op. 67
Richard Wagner: Der Ring des Nibelungen (fragments)
Julián Orbón: Tres versiones sinfónicas
Gustav Mahler: Symphony #5

Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela/Gustavo Dudamel
Brussels, Centre for Fine Arts, 11-12 January 2015

Touring Europe, the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela (SBSO) under their Music Director Gustavo Dudamel performed two concerts in Brussels. Dudamel already guested in 2009 with the Gothenburg Symphony, but for the orchestra it was a long overdue debut in the Belgian capital. The arrival of El Sistema’s crown jewel and its brightest gem had been well prepared in the media and not surprisingly on both nights the Centre for Fine Arts was filled to capacity. Perhaps not so much the new audience that is often mentioned in connection with “the Dude”, but people of all ages who still made it quite clear for what reason they attended the concerts. That recently the praised Venezuelan educational system received a fair amount of flak, or that the country itself is going through rough times, wasn’t going to spoil the fun. Dudamel and the Bolivars were in town.
Read the full review on Classical Net


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Abdel Rahman El Bacha Saves the Day

Francis Poulenc: Orchestral Suite “Les Biches”
Maurice Ravel: Piano Concerto in G major
Piotr Ilyitch Tchaikovsky: The Nutcracker, Op. 71, Act II

Abdel Rahman El Bacha, piano
Belgian National Orchestra/Andrew Litton
Brussels, Centre for Fine Arts, 2 October 2013

With ballet music – Poulenc’s Les Biches and Act 2 from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker – framing the Piano concerto from Ravel, the Belgian National Orchestra under American guest conductor Andrew Litton promised an evening full of elegance, color and sophistication. Soloist for the Ravel was the Franco-Lebanese pianist Abdel Rahman El Bacha, laureate of the Queen Elisabeth Competition in this very same place in 1978, then a mere 19-year old. The present concert was in aid of CAP 48, a fundraising initiative of the Belgian TV network working hard for the integration of disabled people – though sad to see in this respect that the concert hall was only two thirds filled this evening.
Read the full review on Classical Net


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Heavenly Beethoven

Ludwig van Beethoven: Overture “Leonore” #2; Piano Concerto #2 in B Flat Major, Op. 19; Symphony #4 in B Flat Major, Op. 60
Maria João Pires, piano
Orchestra Mozart/Bernard Haitink
Brussels, Center for Fine Arts, 29 September 2013

Cancellations can go in every direction. An opportunity to see the legendary couple Claudio Abbado-Martha Argerich once more at work was abruptly shattered when the 80-year old Italian maestro had to annul his European tour with his Orchestra Mozart on doctor’s orders. It had been almost fifteen years since Abbado was last in Brussels, expectations were understandably high, but the “big comeback” was clearly not to be this time. And with Abbado out, so was Argerich, and the scheduled Haydn-Mozart program.
Read the full review on Classical Net


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Hungarian Magic

Antonino Pasculli: Concerto on Themes from Donizetti’s “La Favorita”
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Concerto for Oboe & Orchestra in C Major, K. 314
Franz Liszt: A Faust-Symphony

François Leleux, oboe
Budapest Festival Orchestra, Iván Fischer
Brussels, Centre for Fine Arts, 6 March 2013

The Budapest Festival Orchestra is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. Under the guidance of maestro Iván Fischer (co-founder with Zoltán Kocsis), the orchestra not only established itself as one of Hungary’s foremost cultural entities, it also went on to cut a strong profile on the international stage. The program they offered in Brussels was delightfully unusual and of the highest level throughout. Starting with a small oboe festival with pieces from the little-known Pasculli and Mozart, featuring the high-spirited François Leleux as soloist, it was the rarely heard Faust-Symphony from Franz Liszt which acted as the focal point of the evening.
Read the full review on Classical Net


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Dazzling Rollercoaster

Sergei Rachmaninoff: Etudes-Tableaux, Op. 39/4-6; Elegy, Op. 3/1
Gabriel Fauré: Ballade, Op. 19
Alexander Scriabin: Sonata #5
Johannes Brahms: 7 Fantasies, Op. 116
Isaac Albéniz: Triana (from Iberia)
Claude Debussy: La soirée dans Grenade (from Estampes)
Vladimir Horowitz: Variations on a Theme from G. Bizet’s “Carmen”

Yuja Wang, piano
Brussels Conservatory, 20 March 2012

The acclaimed Chinese pianist Yuja Wang made her debut in Belgium with the kind of disparate program that would have made giants like Sviatoslav Richter think twice, yet which seems designed primarily to demonstrate how dazzling a virtuoso she is. (Richter played what he felt like playing at a particular moment, but that’s another story.) Wang’s Brussels recital was largely culled from her coinciding new CD-release, imponderably titled “Fantasia” and sounded in spite of the hyped promise of “a poetic evening” for the most part like a no-brainer, rollercoaster collection of miniatures and bravura transcriptions by Rachmaninoff, Scriabin, Debussy, Albeniz and Horowitz, wherein the difference between the official program and the encores eventually went completely adrift. The bits of late Brahms and Fauré thrown in for weight couldn’t dispel the frustrating feeling that this evening we only heard part of her talent. Or didn’t we?
Read the full review on Classical Net